2014 Aprilia Tuono V4R Test
Judging from the talk at our hangouts and aisle traffic at the recent IMS show in Long Beach, Calif., one of the most hotly anticipated segments in motorcycling today, at least by those who have discovered these niche-segment motorcycles, might arguably be naked high performance bikes.
Known scientifically as neo-hooliganus nakedus, I have reservations in applying the hooligan moniker here. Seems any wheelie-prone bike is called a hooligan but this new crop is way beyond that.
In the last year or two, more manufacturers have opted to build into their nakeds all or most of the power available in the faired, racing bikes from which they were derived. The trend seems to be away from those models that had been gelded at the factory and never lived up to certain expectations.
Squarely in this segment we find the 2014 Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC ABS, the subject of today’s review. We also find the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Ducati Monster 1200, Kawasaki Z1000, MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR, Triumph Speed Triple R, and the elusive BMW S1000R, to mention a few. Some of these are new models and we are eager to ride them all and make comparisons.
The 2014 Tuono is Aprilia’s much loved naked offering, and it sure attracts a lot of attention wherever it goes. It has changed subtly for 2014, and following on the heels of our review of Aprilia’s RSV4 Factory model for 2013 (and 2012 World Superbike winner), we find the Tuono might well be everything one would care to have in a naked, street-oriented version of the RSV4. This is a considerable package with Aprilia bestowing all the RSV4’s goodness on its naked sibling and includes for 2014 the next generation of APRC electronics.
The 32-inch wide bars differ vastly from the RSV4’s clip-ons and invite me to explore the differences and similarities to the race bike beyond the massive change in ergonomics.
Aprilia has graced the bike with a new, softer seat (32.8-inch height) and it is super comfortable with room for a small passenger on the slightly stepped-up pillion end. I’m 6′ and easily get both feet flat on the ground.
The Tuono incorporates what it calls “new comfort-oriented suspension setting.” I’m not sure how that functions but believe it is simply softer factory suspension settings. When I first received the bike I noticed that it was upset in tight, bumpy sections of road and squirmed a bit with mild head shake if it occurred during corner exit.
The stock steering damper is not adjustable so I found no solace there, but a couple of clicks of rear compression and damping and a click less on each fork leg (one handles compression and the other damping) and the gremlins were gone. For more on comfort, the foot pegs have been lowered this year and along with the new seat it has very comfortable, all-day ergos and a cockpit that is pleasing and hasn’t changed a bit.
The force of character of this machine is outside the scope of those who have never ridden a bike like this. Although some might call it one of the perfect hooligan bikes, that label serves to dull its brilliance as the term has been used to describe too many lesser machines. However one may choose to ride the Tuono at any given moment; it is just about perfection in so far as moto amusement is concerned.
A ride to the bank becomes an exercise in traffic ballet, with musical accompaniment, as the Tuono is more than happy to go at whatever pace you choose yet delivers the one real differentiator between motorcycles in this category, and that’s all about the power plant.
Leading manufacturers of sportbikes in this day and age have pretty well demystified the engineering processes related to chassis, suspension and brakes. Argue if you will, but unless you race and are counting seconds then, at this level, one is about as good as the next. The big difference between brands is engine architecture and this is where Aprilia’s V4 shines so brightly. Its race-bred sound, 1600 rpm idle, torque delivery (82 lb.-ft. claimed), horsepower (170 claimed – up three from last year) and the way power is delivered is unique. This V4 gives you a power spread unequalled in any inline four or twin.
According to the manufacturer, the V4 R ABS engine for 2014 is an updated version of the motor from the 2013 RSV 4 ABS. Changes include revised timing, 25 mm longer fixed intake ducts, new flywheel, maximum power now at 11,500 rpm, reduced internal friction and better sump ventilation.
Il Tuono turns about 6000 rpm at 80 mph and will do about 75 mph in first gear when the rev limiter kicks in, as compared to the RSV4 Factory which pulls 96 mph in 1st at 14,000. Our Aprilia White (semi-matt) test Tuono was delivered with their optional 15-tooth front sprocket, down from 16, to enhance low-end acceleration. For 2014 they also utilized shorter ratios in the first three gears. I found that this helped, but not entirely, and our consultants talked about adding two teeth to the rear sprocket. We didn’t try it but some might.
If you want a thrill then apex a Tuono around 5000-6000 rpm and give it a twist on corner exit. The front wheel lofts a couple of inches as the bike charges ahead. You finish your turn on the back tire with the bike acting completely neutral and behaved. The front end sets down gently and the rush to the next corner can be frightening.
Old school throttle control by wrist is a habit and a favorite and it always works but there is a lot of confidence instilled in the rider, and an extra margin of safety, with Aprilia Traction Control (ATC – eight levels paddle-shifted) and Aprilia Wheelie Control (AWC – three levels off the menu) combined. The electronics have your back and with about 157 horsepower at the rear wheel (claimed), a safety net isn’t a bad idea.
For comparison, the V4 engine in Honda’s VFR1200 is lively, powerful and smooth but compared to the Aprilia mill it fails to deliver the elegant rawness that makes the Aprilia so special. Both get the job done but on the Aprilia V4 I go out of my way to saw back and forth through the revs and luxuriate in the sound and texture of every delicious decibel which, by the way, emanate from a relatively small exhaust canister that not only looks good but is louder that you can believe would have passed EPA testing. For the street, I would never consider swapping for an aftermarket pipe.
It rained the day after getting the bike into the garage but that afternoon turned clear and I got the chance to take my first ride in the sun but with partially wet roads. These conditions offered the opportunity to have a bit of fun with the eight-level Aprilia Traction Control (ATC), which adjusts on the fly with finger paddles on the left grip. I found no need to reduce power to stay safe under the slippery conditions. I started at TC level 8, the most intrusive, and dialed it down during the ride until I found that 4-5 was a perfect level of protection in the wet and 3-4 in the dry. Setting the TC too high will limit the shove out of corners.
When ridden through your favorite canyon thoughts of most bygone rides are eclipsed by the performance and rideability of the Tuono. The upright seating position is just perfect and most of the time the bike asks for more. Manners are impeccable and power delivery through the chassis to the pavement is always predictable. The front end offers more feel and confidence than almost anything available.
The V4 has three built-in fuel injection maps to tailor its power delivery to prevailing conditions. Track mode offers full power, perfect fueling and is approved for road use. Sport mode, per Aprilia’s website gives “smooth delivery, maximum power. Torque limited in all gears for fun yet less demanding riding.” Lastly, Rain (or Road depending upon which literature you read) mode softens delivery and Aprilia says, “smooth delivery and power attenuated by 25% across the rev range. Greater usability in all conditions. Ideal for the city or wet road conditions.”
In reality we found Rain (or Road) to be nice, smooth and still very fast. We found Sport mode to have a slow reaction to throttle inputs when asking for power. I call this a flat spot and it mostly occurs off apexes around 4000-5500 rpm. My favorite is Track, which was easily modulated with about-perfect, linear responses and no dead zones. Once the map testing was completed I switched to T for the remainder of the review and thought no more about it.
During later spirited rides in perfect, dry and warm conditions, I found that TC levels 3-4 were most agreeable for aggressive canyon riding. These levels allowed for a more warm and fuzzy experience on a bike that can be a handful when ridden hard. Power comes in so quickly and effortlessly, and speed is gained so blindingly fast, that any thoughts that electronic aids aren’t important never re-enter one’s mind.
On the subject of electronic aids, Aprilia has developed Multi-map Racing ABS braking system (Track, Sport, Rain and off), utilizing Bosch’s 9MP hardware, which has enlarged the scope of the ABS functionality by not only preventing wheel lock during braking but adding various degrees of rear wheel lift mitigation (RLM) to the algorithm.
This system recognizes the type of braking scenario you are encountering, whether touring, sport riding, racing, bumpy road or panic stop and adds its magic to the equation.
During my 700 miles riding this bike I don’t think I encountered any situations for the system to help bail me out, but I like seeing refinements in technology. ABS has sure come a long way since BMW was first to add it to their bikes in the 80s. I once crashed a bike at low speed, stopping on a small patch of sand I didn’t see. I was going about 3 mph and it hurt. ABS would have avoided that scenario. I’m a big fan.
During my time with the Tuono I averaged 27 mpg and I’d say my riding was generally aggressive and just the way I envision its buyers will ride it. Racers and street fighters, expect less. With a 4.8 gallon capacity (up .4 from last year) your warning light will illuminate at 90-100 miles.
I’m not the kind of guy who buys a vehicle based on specifications and comparisons. Do I care about a few horsepower and quarter mile times? Not so much. My decision revolves mainly around the heart, soul and character that is often referred to by owners and writers. In that column the Tuono (MSRP: $14,499) has full marks and, by the end of the review, I considered it a real friend.
Photography by Don Williams
- Jacket: Cortech Adrenaline
- Pants; Cortech Adrenaline
- Gloves: Cortech Adrenaline II
- Helmet: Schuberth SR1
- Boots: Sidi ST Air